So many leak bombs. So many Master Plans. So, so many release dates and prices, ends of Facebook, Wrong about, finallys, truths, confirmed, here you goes, and M1X and iPhone 13… galore. So. Much. Thirst. In all the titles and Tim Cook festooned thumbnails you see, I see, we all see, so always.
But why? Why is it this way? Well…
OK, so, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Actually, a pretty big secret. The secret to all tech videos on YouTube. Hell, all videos, period.
Here’s how YouTube actually works: It tries to find videos that will satisfy audiences. Videos that will satisfy you. Every time you land on YouTube, just think of a billion little bots running over to fill up your homepage and sidebar with the videos they think you’ll really want to click on next. Because the longer you stay on YouTube watching those videos, the more ads they can show you, and the more money they can make.
Now, notice I said YouTube tries to find videos for the audience, for you. I didn’t say YouTube tries to find an audience for the videos — For creators like me. Because it doesn’t. YouTube wants the videos you’re most likely to click on next. It doesn’t care at all if those videos are from me specifically or any other creator in particular. And that’s the everyday new fresh nightmare hellscape every creator — including me — faces every day. The battle for you.
It’s why we ask you to hit that subscribe button and bell, because it makes it far more likely you’ll see and hopefully watch and enjoy our specific videos, which will then encourage those little YouTube bots to show them to more and more people. So, yeah, hit that subscribe button and bell.
But if that’s it, that’s all, how do we end up with leak bomb master plan end of Facebook finally truth confirmed don’t make a mistake filling up our feeds on the daily?
Because there are so many videos competing for our attention on the daily. Hell, the hourly. The minutely. And that’s what gets our attention. That’s what people click on. As much as some say they hate seeing them. As much as we say we hate using them. Time and again, when given a choice between a simple title like “iPhone 12 review” and a sensational one like “I bent an iPhone 12 into a pretzel”, precisely almost everyone chooses the pretzel.
There are a few exceptions, of course. There are always a few exceptions. Marques, MKBHD, and Justine, iJustine have built up such massive audiences over such a long period of time that they can keep everything super simple and still pull massive views. Although, you may have noticed, if they try anything even remotely off-topic, even they get fewer views than normal.
Because, turns out, audiences don’t really like off-topic. If you sign up for a chocolate machine, and every time the button lights up, you press it, and you get chocolate, odds are you’ll press that button every damn time it lights up. At least every time you want chocolate. Which might be a lot.
But if every few times that button lights up it says Brussel sprouts, maybe you won’t press it. Especially if you were expecting, wanting chocolate. And if it starts just lighting up with rando things, chocolate, sure, sometimes, but also Brussel sprouts, blue cheese, vanilla ice cream, black licorice, red licorice, maybe you still press the button every once and a while, but not often, and if you signed up for chocolate, that’s what you want, and we jerks keep denying you it, maybe never again.
And that’s the dirty little secret of how YouTube really works. It’s not publish or perish, it’s get clicked or get kicked. Doesn’t matter if you have a dozen subs or a dozen million, a fresh channel or one of the first. The bigger you are, the bigger buffer you have, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to:
A thumbnail eye-catching enough to stop people mid scroll or mid scan, a title compelling enough that people can’t stop thinking about it until they click, a topic so trendy or timeless it appeals to the biggest audience possible, an intro so instantly rewarding that it immediately pays off the click, and earns enough attention for people to keep watching, with editing so tight it leaves nowhere for people to click out, storytelling so engaging it keeps people watch the whole way through, and ultimately a video so satisfying it gets them to immediately watch another one of your videos and then another. And another. Do that and those little YouTube bots will fall all over each other stuffing your videos into as many homepages and sidebars as is inhumanly possible.
Forget beating the algorithm. That’s urban myth, deus ex machina John Wick killed the fucking boogie man nonsense. Replace the algorithm with the audience. If you can stop the audience in their tracks with your thumbnail, live rent free in their brain stems with your title, keep them locked to the video they loaded with your storytelling and editing — and make things your audience, that same audience, will love and come back for over and over again, forget finding a golden ticket, you’ve made the golden ticket.
You’re MrBeast or SSSniperwolf with hundreds of millions of impressions per video earning tens of millions of click throughs, up to three quarters average view percentage, and a dozen or more average views per viewer.
But most YouTube creators aren’t MrBeast or SSSniperwolf any more than most musicians are Taylor Swift, or most actors are a Chris from an MCU movie.
So we try to find the topics we think you want to see, that have worked the best for us in the past, give them a thumbnail we hope you’ll click on the most. Either with the latest, hottest gadget or with an emotional face your human instincts will latch onto, or both, because face + thing is a YouTube classic for the same reason it’s a magazine classic. Pure social engineering. Just, so often with Tim Cook’s face now… And then, yeah, the greatest hits of leak bombs. Master Plans. Release dates and prices, ends of Facebook, Wrong abouts, finallys, truths, confirmed, here you goes, and M1Xes and iPhone 13s. Basically all the title thirst traps that have trapped the most thirst. Because, the horrible truth is… we are what we click on.
Remember what I said about rewarding that click and providing satisfaction. If the button says chocolate and you get Brussel sprouts, you’re going to get mad. If the button says chocolate and you get an electric shock, you’ll be madder.
It’s why YouTube moved from prioritizing click through rate to view duration to, now, satisfaction. Why we’re all getting those surveys after random videos.
A compelling, interesting, even sensational title isn’t clickbait if it delivers. It’s just compelling, interesting, even sensational, especially if we do our jobs and we over deliver. But if we click-bait-and-switch you. If we burn you. If we promise you something in the title and utterly fail to deliver it in the video, then we risk losing you. We risk losing the audience. At which point YouTube will notice and start serving our videos to fewer and fewer people. We’ll be tempted to blame the algorithm, but the algorithm is still happily serving those same people videos that still make them happy. Those videos just aren’t our any more. And we did that to ourselves.
So we have to be super extra extremely careful any time we use The TRUTH About Insanely Great M1X iPhone 13 Price and Release Date CONFIRMED Leak Bombs Are Apple’s Master Plan to FINALLY End Facebook — Don’t make a Mistake! As the title of a video, because if we fuck it up, it could be our last.
It’s why I personally make damn sure that any time I use a title anything like that, I give you so much value that not only can I sleep at night, I can sleep knowing you got the absolute best value I could possibly give you, hopefully the best sourced, most accurate, most reliable information and analysis on the planet — at least outside Apple Park. That’s my promise to you. The thumbnail and title are just the candy coating I use to get the opportunity to deliver on that promise to you.
As to how we got to this point, all our content served up by machine learning in the most hyper-competitive contexts imaginable? Well, that would be off-topic for this video, and I just explained why that’s so bad for YouTube, so I’m going to make it into it’s own mini-video and stick it on the end of the Nebula version of this video.
With no ads and no sponsors, just like all my Nebula videos. Often uncut or extended or with bonus segments are well, sometimes whole entire original videos that just wouldn’t work on YouTube, for reasons I’m going over, unicronically, in the Nebula version of this video.
It’s the exact reason we’re building Nebula — as an expansion pack to YouTube. And you can get a Nebula subscription, bundled in for free, when you sign up at CuriosityStream.com/reneritchie or just click the link in the description.
And right now, because you watch this channel, you can get that bundle for 26% off, less than 15 bucks a year — less than the price of a fancy bistro burger — for a whole entire year. And that includes their thousands of amazing documentaries and series like The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms, which delves into how all these recommendation engines affect all of our lives.
As well as all the ad-free and often extended videos on Nebula from MKBHD, TechAltar, Jordan Harrod, Ali Abdaal, Real Science, Georgia Dow, EposVox, and so many more!
You’re supporting smart, educational content directly. For over 26% off, less than $15 a year. Just click the link in the description or go curiositystream.com/reneritchie.
And clicking on that link really helps out this channel.
How did we get here? Well, once upon a time there were kids on most every corner yelling “hear ye, hear ye, read all about”, desperate to sell their stack of papers for a nickel or whatever a piece. Then, over time, we began to subscribe to newspapers, comic books, magazines… we bought albums, tapes, CDs, boxed sets of TV shows, boxed sets of software too…
And that meant newspapers could use classified ads, and a few zippy bleeds-it-leads headlines to fund deep, expensive, investigative journalism. Musicians could use a few hit tracks to slip in some more experimental stuff on the same album. It made things, if not perfectly predictable at least somewhat stable.
But then came digital. Print was torn apart and posted piecemeal, article by article, on the web. Music was sold as singles, then streamed. Shows could be binged but also episodes skipped or one-offed. And we aren’t cooped up in theaters any more, sodium and sugar drunk on popcorn and pop cola, willing to give character arcs and stories a chance to develop. Now, if we don’t like a movie in the first few minutes, we can not-today-satan right out and find any of a billion others to watch.
And thanks to social networks, every bit of content is atomized and algorithmically served up to us based on innumerable data points benevolent and malevolent, all the time always. In an endless stream… of streams. The feed.
Yup, we’re back to street corners and “hear ye hear ye” again, but times infinity. Nothing is scarce. Nothing is valuable. Everything is abundant. Everything is a commodity. And we’re all screaming our lungs off trying to get you to “hear all about us”, to pay attention to us! Not the infinite other articles or music streams or shows or movies or videos or social network feeds you could be paying attention to at any moment.
In the early days, YouTube only cared about the click, so you’d see… wait for it.. a ton of clickbait. But that just caused people to click out or feel burned, so YouTube started caring about watch time more. Average View Duration, or how long people watched. That’s why you saw a lot of long ass videos for a while. But then people started getting bored, so YouTube started caring about retention. Average View Percentage. Or how much they watched. That’s when you saw videos getting shorter again, but also much more tightly edited. Paying off your click with an epic moment immediately, and then trying to keep you hooked for as long as possible, just ratcheting up the tension, the stakes, over and over again.
But that tended to promote the more extreme, more outlandish, more conspiratorial content as well, so now YouTube is all about satisfaction. How good do you feel after watching a video? So now we get surveys asking us exactly that, randomly, after some videos. And we see YouTube caring much more about average views per viewer — how many of your videos people are actually watching.